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Web browsers & smart cards

With respect to security, how does the Web browser handle the non-repudiation (digital signature) and encryption of a message using a smart card? The smart card contains a user private key. Is it really secure (as compared to a window message client)?

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A Web browser handles the non-repudiation and encryption of a message using a smart card just as when using the technology on a desktop computer, except the private key is stored on the card. Software will require a passphrase (or biometrics) to access the private key; hence we have something the user knows -- passphrase and something he has -- the card.

There is no fundamental difference between a smart card and window message client except that a person can carry his smart card from computer to computer, making his identity more portable (not tied to a particular desktop or notebook PC).

This was first published in April 2001

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